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Russia could use ‘most unsavoury means’ to win in Ukraine, Truss warns

The Foreign Secretary said any use of unconventional weapons in Ukraine would be an ‘extremely serious escalation’ of the conflict.

27 February 2022

Britain has said Vladimir Putin may be prepared to use “the most unsavoury means” to secure victory in Ukraine amid warnings he could unleash Moscow’s arsenal of battlefield nuclear weapons.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said any use of nuclear or chemical weapons would represent an “extremely serious escalation” of the conflict which could see Russian leaders brought before the International Criminal Court.

Her warning came after the Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said that in the “worst-case scenario” Mr Putin could deploy low yield tactical nuclear weapons if his forces failed to make a breakthrough.

With the Russian advance on the capital, Kyiv, apparently bogged down in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, Ms Truss said the survival of Mr Putin’s regime could now be at stake if his invasion plan failed.

“This could well be the beginning of the end for Putin. I fear that he is prepared to use the most unsavoury means in this war,” she told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme.

Asked about Russia’s arsenal of chemical and tactical weapons, she said: “I fear this conflict could be very, very bloody.

“I urge the Russians not to escalate this conflict but we do need to be prepared for Russia to seek to use even worse weapons. I think it would be hugely devastating. We need to avoid this at all costs.”

Speaking later on the BBC’s Sunday morning programme, she said that senior Russian officials could be tried for war crimes “if they do go into that arena”.

“This would be extremely serious escalation of the situation,” she said.

“The International Criminal Court has already said they are looking at what is happening in Ukraine and if I was a senior Russian official, or indeed the president, I would be very wary of taking further steps.”

Western officials have previously raised the prospect that the Russian could use thermobaric “vacuum bombs” which suck in oxygen to create a devastating, high temperature blast.

Mr Ellwood said Western allies needed to think now what their response would be if Mr Putin were to use unconventional forces.

“He could certainly use other weapons systems which haven’t been really tested or that we aren’t really used to,” he told the BBC.

“Chemical weapons, the worst case scenario would be low yield tactical nuclear weapons as well. We need to ask those questions as to what we would do.”

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